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Threat causes lockdown at schools

November 30, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

erinc@herald-mail.com

North Hagerstown and South Hagerstown high schools were locked down Tuesday about 2:30 p.m. after Washington County School Board administrative offices received a "vague threat," said William Blum, chief operating officer for Washington County Public Schools.

The threat involved weapons, according to Public Schools spokeswoman Carol Mowen, but she declined to say what kind.

Blum would not comment on the nature of the threat, but Hagerstown Police and school officials restricted access to the buildings for about one hour until students were dismissed at 3:30 p.m., he said.

Police guarded the front entrance of South High just before 3 p.m., telling students they could not come inside. Students also were not permitted to leave. One mother told an officer she was there to pick up her daughter, but was told she could not come inside.

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Movement in the schools' halls also was restricted.

Blum said police were dispatched to the high schools as a "precautionary measure."

"It's just to make sure everything is OK," he said.

Mowen said students were dismissed in a controlled way, allowing only a portion of students to leave at one time.

She said students were not told about the threat, but she expected that letters would be sent to students' parents.

After students were dismissed, police and administrators scanned both campuses for anything unusual or out of place, Mowen said. Nothing was found.

The threatening call was placed to the office's main switchboard. Blum said an employee in the human resources department picked up the line.

The employee spoke with police shortly after receiving the call, offering details about the caller's voice and other identifying information. Blum declined to talk about what information was discussed.

Blum did say the threat was not directed at the employee who received the phone call.

Mowen said she did not believe the threat was directed at a specific student or administrator.

Blum said threats against two schools at the same time have been received previously.

Blum said school was dismissed on time and he expected both schools to open on time today. Mowen said she did not expect the police units at each school Tuesday would be needed today.

North High suspended all after-school activities, while South High continued with planned activities. Mowen said those decisions were made by each school's officials.

Phone calls Tuesday to Hagerstown Police Department officers were not returned.

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